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Posts Tagged ‘9/11 exploitation’

We’re Not Forgetting

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

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Except for posting this brief comment, we are among the millions of New Yorkers who are doing anything but “commemorating” the 10th anniversary. We are not reading the magazines’ special commemorative editions or watching the solemn and reverent broadcasts brought to you by our sponsors of the corporate media. We live in New York City—we don’t need to be reminded. It’s with us every day, in every heavily armed National Guardsman at Penn Station, every fire station you pass by, etc., just as you can still hear Hurricane Katrina howling through New Orleans, not only on the anniversary of Aug. 29, 2005.

Let Us Remember These Attacks Could Have Been Blocked

While we remember the dead, and those who died bravely trying to save lives, while our sincere condolences go out to their families, the children who never knew their daddy who died that day—

While we are never forgetting let us also recall that for eight months in early 2001 Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice blew off counter-terrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke’s repeated requests for meetings to brief them on the threat of Al Qaeda; and that Bush was specifically warned in an Aug. 6, 2001, CIA briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” but remained on vacation till Sept. 4 and never did call Clarke. And we will never forget watching the towers burning—we could see the smoke from an elevated subway track in Queens a few miles away—and then on a TV in our office in midtown Manhattan watching the towers burning, hearing about another plane striking the Pentagon, and looking out the window and wondering, “Where is the f—in’ goddamn air force?!”

The first plane to hit the World Trade Center was American flight 11 out of Boston. It took off at 7:45 a.m. After 8:13 there was no more pilot contact with air traffic control. Around 8:20, two flight attendants called American’s headquarters to report a hijacking. Under normal conditions that plane would have been stopped, shot down if necessary. But NORAD and the FAA claimed NORAD wasn’t contacted until 8:40. Even then, the first fighter jets weren’t scrambled until 8:52. American flight 11 hit the north tower at 8:48—thirty-five minutes after Boston lost contact. McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey is only 70 miles from Manhattan—an F-15 at top speed could have been there in three minutes—but instead the order went to Otis AFB in Cape Cod. Cape Cod? It would have been strange enough for the system to fail for Flight 11, but the same thing happened with all four hijacked flights: FAA is tardy in telling NORAD, then NORAD is slow to order up fighter jets from unnecessarily distant bases, then the fighters don’t arrive till after the damage is done. For Washington, the obvious base is Andrews, 10 miles away, but instead the jets were ordered from Langley AFB, 130 miles from Washington, after the Pentagon was hit. (The USAF was budgeted $85 billion for fiscal year 2001.)

While human beings, many of them with their clothes on fire, were jumping out of the burning towers and splattering like eggs on the concrete plaza a quarter mile down, the commander in chief was in Sarasota, Florida, sitting virtually paralyzed as a class of second-graders read a story about a pet goat. Four different accounts attest that he had been notified about the attacks in New York before he entered the classroom for the photo-op.

(Imagine the reaction if any of this happened with the current president, or any Democrat, in the White House.)

This is not the part they want us to remember today. Sorry. This is what we remember and always will, just as we’ll never forget the entire city abandoned by that same administration (with the president this time on a five-week vacation), children and elderly and all ages in between suffocating and dehydrating in the Superdome and outside the Convention Center for days after Hurricane Katrina and on rooftops all around the sweltering city of New Orleans in late August and early September 2005.

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And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.   —Revelation 21:4

et absterget Deus omnem lacrimam ab oculis eorum . . . 

Il essuiera toute larme de leurs yeux . . . 

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See also:

Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11? Thoughts on Two American Traumas (Sept. 11, 2010)

Anti-Islamic Furor Helps al Qaeda, Endangers America: On the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan (Aug. 23, 2010)

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Top photo from WTC observation deck by Nathan Benn, Feb. 18, 1988; bottom photo of New Orleans resident Angela Perkins outside the New Orleans Convention Center, Sept. 1, 2005, by Melissa Phillip/AP Photo.

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Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11?

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Thoughts on Two American Traumas

[ Cross-posted at Daily Kos. ]

Between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which do you think gets most attention, and why?

What if the national focus on 9/11 is exaggerated and the nation should focus instead on 8/29—Hurricane Katrina—as the catastrophe that signifies the greatest threat to America? The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has received high-profile attention, marked by the release of feature films (Spike Lee, Harry Shearer), hour-long special reports (Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper), and a presidential address at Xavier University, so we’re not complaining that Katrina has been ignored.

We were in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and saw men and women in dust- and debris-covered clothing walking the streets in a daze and crossing the 59th Street Bridge into Queens as from an apocalypse. We heard distraught eyewitnesses on pay phones talking about seeing the burning, falling bodies (“Look, Mommy, the birds are on fire”); we have heard first-person accounts from survivors who were just 20 feet away when their coworkers fleeing the burning towers were crushed beneath chunks of falling metal the size of garbage trucks. We’ve heard accounts from neighbors who were trapped on the E train near the World Trade Center while frantic escapees pounded on the doors to get in. The haunting stories, the anguish go on and on. Many others have experienced far worse than we can ever imagine. So, the following thoughts are by no means intended to diminish the trauma of September 11 or the necessity of dealing with al Qaeda and other extremist threats.

Anorexia of the Homeland: Making War While “Starving the Beast”

And yet we think maybe the challenges this nation faces are more accurately represented by the natural and bureaucratic/political disaster suffered on August 29, 2005, and in the following days, weeks, months, years. The United States is falling apart from a lack of funding of every kind of infrastructure—resulting from neglect, indifference, and a mean-spirited conservative agenda that seeks to roll back the progressive reforms of the 20th century. Our nation is in a downward spiral because of political unwillingness to protect the environment and our fellow citizens who are poor, jobless, homeless, in need of medical care and decent education. Our coasts and cities are vulnerable because of long-term environmental neglect and denial of the effects of industry—global warming, rising sea levels, intensified storms resulting from warming seas—and because corporate-captive politicians of both parties have put industrial and political interests ahead of what’s best for the planet, humanity, and other life forms. Even if 9/11 had never happened, all these conditions would still threaten our way of life.

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Anti-Islamic Furor Helps al Qaeda, Endangers America

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

“The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves—and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans—if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan. . . . We would betray our values—and play into our enemies’ hands—if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists—and we should not stand for that. . . . there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy.Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Aug. 3, 2010

“We desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand and fall to his own Master. Wee are bounde by the Law to doe good unto all men, especially to those of the household of faith.Remonstrance of the Inhabitants of the Towne of Flushing to Governor Peter Stuyvesant, December 27, 1657 (alluded to by Mayor Bloomberg)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. —First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, 1791

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Ordinarily this blog would have no reason to comment on the building of an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan—the subject doesn’t naturally pertain to our core mission of infrastructure, environment, and peace (especially for New Orleans and environs). But these are not ordinary times, and this is no longer an ordinary religious-freedom issue.

The uproar over Park51, commonly known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” has reached national security–threatening levels of madness. What we find most troubling about the furor is that the hate speech against Islam generally—blaming all Muslims, including the 5 to 7 million Muslim Americans, for the crimes of al Qaeda on 9/11—is making it easier to justify war on the Islamic world, to continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond. (Recall the WWII internments of Japanese-Americans and the atomic bombings made politically and morally more palatable by persistent demonization of “the Jap” as subhuman.) Most insane and threatening of all is that the broad-brush insults of Muslims validate Osama bin Laden’s claims that America hates Islam and that therefore all Muslims should fight against “the Crusaders.” Do Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin really want to do bin Laden’s recruiting work for him?

[The manufacture of the controversy cannot be understood without seeing Atlas Shrugs, the blog of author and activist Pamela Geller, executive director of a group called Stop Islamization of America (“a human rights organization dedicated to freedom of speech, religious liberty”) and coauthor of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (foreword by John Bolton). Salon’s Justin Elliott explains how Geller pushed Park51 from being unremarkable when announced to being suddenly seen as a dire threat to America.]

The site in question is occupied by a former Burlington Coat factory that was damaged on 9/11. The building dates back to the 1850s. The owners of the property, Feisal Abdul Rauf, a graduate of Columbia University, and his wife Daisy Khan, plan to build a Sufi Islamic cultural center—not a mosque—modeled on the (Jewish) 92nd Street Y, a prominent cultural and fitness center in New York City. (Sufis are well known as the most peaceful and “cosmic” of the varieties of Islam—they are like the opposite of extremist or violent. Think of the Persian poet Rumi.) The Park51 board includes Christians and Jews along with Muslims. The plans call for classrooms, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, a memorial to the victims of September 11 (some of whom were Muslim, as were some of the first responders), a prayer room but not a mosque, and so on. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of a mosque in TriBeCa for nearly 30 years, vice-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York and the author of “What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America,” has conducted “sensitivity training” for the FBI. He is famous as a peaceful moderate. His wife, Daisy Khan, runs the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which she co-founded with Rauf. (When she appeared on Fox News in December 2009 to talk about the center, Laura Ingraham said, “I like what you’re doing.”) Rauf and Khan are precisely the kind of Muslims America should welcome and encourage. Harassing them and demonizing their project, telling them and others of their faith that they don’t belong here sends a very bad signal to the Muslim world and reinforces their suspicion that America is at war with Islam.

Where Is George W. Bush When You Need Him?

This is precisely why President Bush was careful to clarify publicly, repeatedly, that the U.S. is fighting al Qaeda, not Islam. “Islam is peace,” he said. Where is he now? Maureen Dowd writes (almost pleadingly), “W. needs to get his bullhorn back out.” At the time Bush said these things, we were not confident his heart was really in it, but he was right to reinforce the message, and it would do a lot of good for America as a United States if he would resurface to try to cool the hostility. (See Joshua Holland’s disturbing report at AlterNet about an epidemic of anti-Islamic hate spreading across the U.S., nearly 10 years after September 11.)

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